How To Create The Perfect Cheese Platter
For many people, a perfectly put-together cheese board is one of life’s greatest pleasures and the highlight of most mealtimes. If you’re one of those people, this is the blog post for you. However, if you’re expecting guests or planning a party and want to learn what to put on a cheese board, we’ll break down all the components so you can make an informed decision and choose the right cheese, crackers, fresh fruits and accompaniments.
What cheese to have on a cheese platter
Let’s start at the start: the clue is in the name but just to be clear, the most important piece of any cheese board is the cheese. And you have a lot of decisions and choices to make but always remember that there are no wrong answers. Your cheese board is yours and should always reflect both your tastes and the preferences of your guests. Also, creating a cheese board is almost as fun as eating it, so enjoy yourself and get creative.
How many cheeses are you serving?
This depends on a lot of things. How many people is it for, is it a dessert course after a heavy meal, or is it the main meal of the evening? One rule of thumb, believed to be a French tradition, is to serve only an odd number of cheeses; three, five or seven. We like this rule because it’s a nice conversation starter and makes finalising your cheese board slightly easier.
Choosing a variety of cheese
Once you’ve decided on your number, think about a variety of cheese. It’s always best to have a mixture of textures and tastes, hard cheese and soft cheese – just as long as it’s good cheese! If you need inspiration, remember the cheesemonger’s cheeseboard motto; “Something old, something new, something stinky, something blue”. Of course, this is just a guide but does help create a nicely balanced cheese platter.
The “something old” in the monger’s ditty refers to ‘aged cheeses’. This is a broad term that means cheese that is produced and cured or aged in a controlled environment. Good examples of cheeses that produce aged varieties include: cheddar, parmesan, manchego and gouda. Aged cheeses are usually sharper and harder than younger, fresher cheeses, and often boast a more pronounced, even enhanced flavour. They’re delightful on a cracker or biscuit topped with some chutney or a little spoonful of something sweet.
Younger cheese, or fresh cheese, is mostly softer, milder, and tangier so complements a hard cheese very well. They are often spreadable too so are great for crackers and biscuits topped with a little bit of fruit. Examples of young cheese include mild cheddars, feta, many goats’ cheeses, and ricotta.
Stinky cheeses, also known as yummy cheeses, can be a little bit scary to some people. Nobody wants to stink out the dinner party but there’s no need to worry. When served correctly, cheese lovers are known to enjoy something a little a bit more pungent. One thing to remember is that the strongest smelling cheeses are not necessarily the strongest tasting cheeses, in fact, washed-rind cheeses are often the stinkiest cheese but are comparatively mild in flavour.
Something blue, rather obviously means blue cheese. Blue cheese is the term used to describe cheese made from pasteurised milk and ripened with penicillium culture. This creates the famous blue veins, pungent aroma and sharp flavours associated with blue cheese. Good examples of blue cheese include: roquefort from France (and thought to be the oldest blue cheese), gorgonzola from Italy, and stilton from England.
Now that you’ve considered the cheesemonger’s motto, we recommend adding a left of field surprise choice to your cheese board. It’s a great way to discover something new and have a little fun with flavours.
Whichever cheeses you choose, make sure they’re served at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge about an hour before you serve. And, to make the most of their flavours, eat them in order, from mild to strong.
The crackers and biscuits to serve with cheese
So you’ve selected your cheeses. Next up, it’s time to decide what to put it on. Let’s answer the question of what crackers do I serve with my cheese? Here’s how to decide on the perfect crackers and biscuits for your cheese course. A variety is always your best bet when it comes to crackers and there’s a large choice of selection boxes out there that mix water crackers, oat cakes, cream crackers, digestive biscuits and wheat crackers. You can also add bread, some toasted crostinis for example, especially if you’re adding any cured meats to your platter.
Creating a meat and cheese platter
What meats should you serve with cheese and crackers? Adding a selection of cured meats is a fantastic way to add some substance to your platter and turn it into a meat and cheese board. This is particularly helpful when the platter is the main meal of the evening rather than an extra course before or after pudding. Cured meats go really well with a lot of cheeses. Prosciutto and parmesan, salami and gouda, and ‘nduja and gruyère are all popular cured meat and cheese combinations.
Pairing cheese and fruits
For as long as there has been cheese it has been paired with fruit, both fresh and dried fruit. Here are some of our favourite fruit and cheese platter ideas. Fruit and cheese is a tremendous food pairing and when it comes to choice, the sky’s the limit, so get creative, and test, test, and test some more because you never know when you’ll hit on a pairing you absolutely love. Popular fruits to include on a cheese board are royal gala apples (delicious with mature cheddar and many other cheeses), figs (try with goats’ and blue cheese), grapes (wonderful with camembert), apricots, pears, plums and even the more exotic mango and pineapple are a good option to consider.
Chutney and pickles to serve with cheese
A jar of chutney, pickle or some quince jelly is a great addition to your platter as they add an extra texture and some more flavour. For a bit of extra sweetness, try honey (flavoured honey such as truffle honey and chilli honey, work particularly well). Or, you could include a slab of dark chocolate for some bitterness. Some people have even been known to serve peanut butter on their platters – no comment or judgement from us, it’s your cheese board!
Arranging your cheese board
There’s a lot of scope for creativity and arranging your cheese board in your own style but there are a few things to consider. You can choose to serve in chunks and allow your guests to cut their own, but serving it in pre-cut portions or bite-sized slices can make it easier.
You can arrange your cheeses by strength of flavour, starting with the mildest and working clockwise in order of strength, or you can sort by origin, keeping the French cheeses separate from the British or Italian cheeses, for example.
Once the platter is full of cheese, you can add your crackers and biscuits, making sure there’s enough for everyone’s first course, and have a spare plate.
Then it’s time for the extras: the fruit and nuts, the olives and the cured meats. Either pair them with a specific cheese or keep them together in a section of the platter. For chutneys, pickles and quince, a small bowl or a ramekin works best. It’s always a good idea to provide a few cheese knives to make it easier for your guests to help themselves, too.